1,016 primary counties in 26 states designated as natural disaster areas...
UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR THE POST with transcript & video
President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will have a closed-press meeting in the Oval Office at 11:00 AM on Wednesday morning to discuss the Administration's efforts to respond to the US drought, the White House announced on Tuesday evening. The current drought is the worst since 1956, according to a report released this week by The National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC. About 55% of the country is in at least a moderate short-term drought, with parts of the US experiencing severe drought. UPDATE, 10:30 AM: Sec. Vilsack will join Press Secretary Jay Carney during today's daily press briefing at the White House. It will be livestreamed at 12: 30 PM EDT at wh.gov/live.
As of last Sunday, 38% of the US corn crop was in poor or very poor condition, compared with 30% a week earlier, according to USDA. The agency had previously predicted a national average corn yield of 166 bushels per acre this year, but has revised this down to 146 bushels, with further reductions expected.
Last week, Sec. Vilsack announced that USDA was amending the Secretarial Disaster Designation process in order to "deliver faster and more flexible assistance to farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disasters." A natural disaster designation makes all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans and other support. The final rule for Secretarial Disaster Designations for drought was amended as follows:
"Nearly automatically qualifies a disaster county once it is categorized by the U.S. Drought Monitor as a severe drought for eight consecutive weeks during the growing season. Effective July 12, 1,016 primary counties in 26 states will be designated as natural disaster areas, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met."
*Photo by Christopher Dilts/Obama for America